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Lok Sabha Clears Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Bill, 2016 To Raise Maternity Leave to 26 Weeks

The Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 was passed by the Lok Sabha by voice vote on March 10, 2017 that will benefit about 1.8 million women working in organized sector.

  • The bill seeks to increase the maternity leaves to 26 weeks by amending the Maternity Benefits Act, 1961 that provides for 12 weeks of maternity leave.
  • Aim: To protect the employment of women during the time of pregnancy and entitle them to have full paid absence from work to take care of their child. It will also encourage more women to join the workforce in organised sector.
  • The Labour and Employment Minister Bandaru Dattatreya moved the bill for consideration and passage in Lower House.
  • The bill has already been passed by the Rajya Sabha in August 2016.
  • Once the President gives his nod to the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016, all working women in public and private establishments will be entitled to 26 weeks of maternity leave.
  • With this, India will become the third highest country in terms of Maternity leaves after Canada and Norway where it is 50 weeks and 44 weeks respectively.

Key Features of the Maternity Benefits (Amendment) Bill, 2016

The Bill will be applicable to the establishments that hire at least 10 or more people. The entitlement will be for only up to first 2 children. For third child, the entitlement will be for only 12 weeks.

  • The Bill also requires every establishment with 50 or more employees to provide creche facilities within a prescribed distance. The woman will be allowed 4 visits to the creche in a day. This will include her interval for rest.
  • It has also made a provision under which an employer can permit a woman to work from home, if the nature of work assigned permits her to do so. This option can be availed of after the period of maternity leave for a duration that is mutually decided by the employer and the woman.Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016
  • The bill also provides for 12 weeks of maternity leave to a woman who legally adopts a child below 3 months of age and a commissioning mother (biological mother) who uses her egg to have a surrogate child.
  • In such cases, 12-week period of maternity leave will be calculated from the date the child is handed over to the adoptive or commissioning mother.
  • The women working in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) would also be entitled to all benefits of the legislation.
  • Besides, steps for paternity benefit was also one of the major points of discussion in the Lok Sabha.
  • The parliament discussed that father also has equal responsibility towards the child like a mother and paternity benefits would help a couple to raise their child together as majority are now nuclear families.
  • West Bengal government already provides paternity leave for 30 days.